Syria’s Survival Is Blow to Jihadists

Despite last-ditch efforts by Israel and its allies to salvage the “regime change” project in Syria, the looming defeat of the Western-backed jihadists marks a turning point in the modern Middle East, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

Syria’s victory in remaining still standing – still on its feet, as it were – amid the ruins of all that has been visited upon her, marks effectively the demise of the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East (of “the New Middle East”). It signals the beginning of the end – not just of the political “regime change” project, but also of the Sunni jihadi project which has been used as the coercive tool for bringing into being a “New Middle East.”

Syrian refugees await the arrival of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to the Zaatari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan. The settlement has grown to house nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees since it opened in 2012. March 27, 2016. (Photo from the United Nations)

Just as the region has reached a geopolitical inflection point, however, so too, has Sunni Islam. Wahhabi-inspired Islam has taken a major hit. It is now widely discredited amongst Sunnis, and reviled by just about everyone else.

Just to be clear how linked were the two projects:

In the wake of the first Gulf War (1990-91), General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, recalled: “In 1991, [Paul Wolfowitz] was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy … And I had gone to see him (…)

“And I said, ‘Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.’

“And he said: ‘Yeah, but not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn is that we can use our military in the region?—?in the Middle East?—?and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes?—?Syria, Iran, Iraq?—?before the next great superpower comes on, to challenge us.’”

Wolfowitz’s thinking was then taken up more explicitly by David Wurmser in his 1996 document, Coping with Crumbling States (following on from his contribution to the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper written by Richard Pearle for Bibi Netanyahu earlier in the same year).  The aim here for both these seminal documents was to directly counter the allegedly “isolationist” thinking of Pat Buchanan (now arisen again in parts of the U.S. New Right and Alt-Right).

Libertarian writer Daniel Sanchez has noted:  “Wurmser characterized regime change in Iraq and Syria (both ruled by Baathist regimes) as ‘expediting the chaotic collapse’ of secular-Arab nationalism in general, and Baathism in particular. He [asserted that] ‘the phenomenon of Baathism,’ was, from the very beginning, ‘an agent of foreign, namely Soviet policy’ … [and therefore advised] the West to put this anachronistic adversary ‘out of its misery’ – and to press America’s Cold War victory on toward its final culmination.  Baathism should be supplanted by what he called the ‘Hashemite option.’ After their chaotic collapse, Iraq and Syria would be Hashemite possessions once again. Both would be dominated by the royal house of Jordan, which in turn, happens to be dominated by the US and Israel.”

Influencing Washington

Wurmser’s tract, Coping with Crumbling States, which together with Clean Break was to have a major impact on Washington’s thinking during the George W. Bush administration (in which David Wurmser also served).  What aroused the deep-seated neocon ire in respect to the secular-Arab nationalist states was not just that they were, in the neo-con view, crumbling relics of the “evil” USSR, but that from 1953 onwards, Russia sided with these secular-nationalist states in all their conflicts regarding Israel. This was something the neo-cons could neither tolerate, nor forgive.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2016 (UN Photo)

Both Clean Break and the 1997 Project for a New American Century(PNAC) were exclusively premised on the wider U.S. policy aim of securing Israel. The point here is that while Wurmser stressed that demolishing Baathism must be the foremost priority in the region, he added: “Secular-Arab nationalism should be given no quarter” – not even, he added, “for the sake of stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism”. (Emphasis added).

In fact, America had no interest in stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism. The U.S. was using it liberally: It had already sent in armed, fired-up Islamist insurgents into Afghanistan in 1979 precisely in order to “induce” a Soviet invasion (one which subsequently duly occurred).

Asked, much later, in view of the terrorism that subsequently occurred, whether he regretted stoking Islamic extremism in this way, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbig Brzezinski replied:

“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.’”

Fired-up Sunni radicals have now been used by Western states to counter Nasserism, Ba’athism, the USSR, Iranian influence, and latterly to try to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. One former CIA official in 1999, described the thinking at the time thus:

“In the West, the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernizing forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old ‘dinosaur’ regimes.” (Emphasis added).

Protecting the Emirs

Precisely: This was what the Arab Spring was about. The role allocated to Islamist movements was to break up the nationalist-secular Arab world (Wurmser’s “Secular-Arab nationalism should be given no quarter”), but additionally to protect the kings and Emirs of the Gulf, to whom America was obliged to tie itself – as Wurmser explicitly acknowledges – as the direct counter-party in the project of dissolving the nationalist secular Arab world. The kings and emirs of course, feared the socialism that was associated with Arab nationalism (— as did the Neocons).

Prominent neocon intellectual Robert Kagan. (Photo credit: Mariusz Kubik, http://www.mariuszkubik.pl)

Dan Sanchez perceptively writes (well before Russia’s intervention into the Middle East), that Robert Kagan and fellow neocon, Bill Kristol, in their 1996 Foreign Affairs article, Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy, sought to inoculate both the conservative movement and U.S. foreign policy against the isolationism of Pat Buchanan:

“The Soviet menace had recently disappeared, and the Cold War along with it. The neocons were terrified that the American public would therefore jump at the chance to lay their imperial burdens down. Kristol and Kagan urged their readers to resist that temptation, and to instead capitalize on America’s new peerless pre-eminence … [that] must become dominance wherever and whenever possible. That way, any future near-peer competitors would be nipped in the bud, and the new ‘unipolar moment’ would last forever … What made this neocon dream seem within reach, was the indifference of post-Soviet Russia.”

And, the year after the Berlin Wall fell, war against Iraq marked the début of the re-making the Middle East: for America to assert uni-polar power globally (through military bases); to destroy Iraq and Iran; to “roll-back Syria” (as Clean Break had advocated) – and to secure Israel.

Russia Is Back

Well, Russia is back in the Middle East – and Russia is no longer “indifferent” to America’s actions – and now “civil war” has erupted in America between those who want to punish Putin for spoiling America’s unipolar moment in the region so thoroughly, and so finally – with Syria – and the other policy orientation, led by Steve Bannon, which advocates precisely the Buchanan-esque U.S. foreign policy which the neocons had so hoped to despoil (… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose).

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the audience at a concert for Palmyra, Syria, after its liberation from ISIS, via a satellite link on May 5, 2016. (Image from RT’s live-streaming of the event)

It is very plain however, that one thing has changed: Sunni jihadists’ long “run” as the tool of choice for re-making the Middle East is over. The signs are everywhere:

The leaders of the five emerging market BRICS powers have for the first time named militant groups based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account:

“We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, (Islamic State) …, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir,” the leaders said in the declaration. (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will need to take note).

Similarly, an article published in an Egyptian newspaper written by Britain’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt, suggests that London now whole-heartedly supports the Sisi regime in Egypt in its war on the Muslim Brotherhood. Burt attacked the M.B. for links to extremism, while emphasizing that Britain has imposed an outright ban on any contact with the organization since 2013 – adding that “now is the time for everyone who defends the Brotherhood in London or Cairo to put an end to this confusion and ambiguity.” Not surprisingly, Burt’s remarks have been greeted with profound pleasure in Cairo.

While it is quite true that there were well-intentioned and principled men and women amongst Sunni Islamists who originally had wanted to recover Islam from the doldrums it had found itself by the 1920s (with the abolition of the Caliphate), the fact is (unfortunately), that this same period coincided with the first Saudi king, Abdul Azziz’s notion (enthusiastically supported by Britain) to use fired-up Wahabbism as the means for him to rule all of Arabia. What subsequently happened (ending with the recent violent attacks in European cities) is not so surprising: most of these Islamist movements were tapped in to the Saudi petro-dollar spigot, and to the Wahhabist notion of its own violent exceptionalism (Wahhabism is alone in claiming to be “the one true Islam”).

Politically Instrumental

And as Islam became increasingly instrumentalized politically, so the more violent strain in it, inevitably, became predominant. Inevitably, the spectrum of Sunni Islamist movements – including those viewed as “moderates” – became incrementally closer to Wahhabi intolerant, dogmatic, literalism – and to embracing extremist violence. In practice, even some nominally non-violent movements – including the Muslim Brotherhood – have allied themselves, and fought with, Al-Qaeda forces in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of Saudi King Salman, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

So, what now: the failure of Wahabbist movements to make political achievements is complete. It seems so short a time since young Muslim men – including ones who had lived their lives in the West – were truly inspired by the very radicalism and the promise of Islamic apocalypse. The Dabiq prophesy (of arriving redemption) then seemed close to fulfillment for these young adherents.  Now that is dust. Wahabbism is thoroughly discredited by its careless brutality. And Saudi Arabia’s claims to political savoir faire, and Islamic authority, has suffered a major blow.

What is less obvious to the outside world is that this blow has been delivered in part by the mostly Sunni Syrian Arab Army. For all the stereotyping and propaganda in the Western world of the Syria conflict as Shi’a versus Sunni, it was Syrian Sunnis who fought – and died – for their Levantine Islamic tradition, against the blown-in, exceptionalist, intolerant, orientation recently brought (post-World War Two) into the Levant from the Saudi Nejd desert (Wahabbism originally arose in the Nejd desert of Saudi Arabia).

In the aftermath of the Syria war and the aftermath of ISIS murderous brutality in Mosul, many Sunnis have had more than enough of this Wahabbi orientation of Islam. There is likely to be a revival of the notion of secular, non-sectarian nationalism in consequence. But also, the traditional Levantine model of a tolerant, more inwardly orientated, quasi-secular, Islam will enjoy a revival.

Whereas fired-up Sunnism used as a political tool may be “down,” radical reformist Sunni Islam, as a sub-culture, is certainly not “out.” Indeed, as the pendulum now swings against Sunni movements globally, the hostility already being generated is very likely to feed the sense of Islam being besieged and attacked; of usurpation of its lands and authority; and of dispossession (of the state, which Sunnis have tradition thought as being “of them”). The puritan, intolerant strain in Islam has been present since the earliest times (Hanbali, Ibn Taymiyya and, in the Eighteenth Century, Abd-el Wahhab), and this orientation always seems to arise at times of crisis within the Islamic world. ISIS may be defeated, but this orientation is never fully defeated, nor disappears completely.

The “victor” in this sub-sphere is Al Qaeda. The latter predicted the failure of ISIS (a physically-situated Caliphate being premature, it argued). Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been proved to have been correct in his judgment. Al Qaeda will sweep up the remnants from both ISIS, on one hand, and the angry and disillusioned members of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other. In a sense, we may see a greater convergence amongst Islamist movements (especially when the Gulf paymasters step back).

We are likely to witness a reversion to Zawahiri’s virtual, global jihad intended to provoke the West, rather than to defeat it militarily – as opposed to any new attempt to seize and control a territorial Emirate.

Expect the shrines at (Shi’i) Kerbala and Najaf to start outshining those of (Sunni) Mecca and Medina. In fact, they already are.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

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33 comments for “Syria’s Survival Is Blow to Jihadists

  1. Abe
    September 8, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    All the stereotyping and propaganda in the Western world was designed to politically and militarily instrumentalize “radical Islam” as both a tool and a pretext for Western military intervention in the predominantly Muslim Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

    With the epic failure of brand “Jihad” on the battlefield in Syria (despite its numerous false flag chemical attacks on the Syrian people), the purported reversion to ” virtual, global jihad intended to provoke the West” signals a renewed willingness by Western states to engage in direct military intervention to advance their geopolitical agenda.

    War is coming.

    • mike k
      September 8, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      War is not coming, it is already here. In fact it has been continuous since the dawn of “civilization.” There are two motifs in history: cooperation and domination. As a presocratic philosopher put it – love and strife. Unfortunately strife has had the upper hand from the beginning. It turns out that peace and cooperation require a higher level of consciousness than struggle, egotism, and mutual violence. Due to the powers we have discovered, the issue of which dynamic will prevail for humanity will be decided in the near future. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which force is winning this war between love and hate as of now. The mere continued existence of nuclear weapons should give you a clue……

      • Xerxes
        September 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm

        A bleak Manichean view, if I may say. The history of civilization, as has been uncovered, is written by the winners of conflicts, which they themselves most likely started, and who always portray their victories in terms of good, them and evil, the enemy. As such, it is just a small group of wicked, self benighted people who have, through time, made human reality appear to be as you describe.

        • mike k
          September 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm

          The use of the term Manichean as way of discounting the existence or relevance of evil and good as factors useful to understand world events is irrelevant. For anyone interested I recommend the wiki article on the Manichean “heresy”. People who use this trope to block thought on something as obvious and important as the conflict between good and evil in the world today, seek to use a medieval religious quibble between Christian sects to discredit something that has nothing to do with that controversy. They use this term Manichean to imply that this is a matter that was decisively dealt with and disproved long ago.

          The next move in this discussion quashing maneuver is to put forward some extreme version of cultural relativism to prove how post modern and correct they are in their viewpoint. “Of course good and evil are just simplistic beliefs that are different in every culture, and thus have no real existence whatever.” This bullshit is supposed to represent an “enlightened” point of view.

          In truth, the inability to recognize the reality and relevance of good and evil in our present predicament is part of the moral fog modern folks at lost in, and plays a major part in creating the world without true values we are living in today. Sorry Xerxes, but you are living in the past………

  2. Karl Sanchez
    September 8, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Daesh will still be utilized by the Neocons in their vain attempt to sustain their attempted establishment of Full Spectrum Dominance through their relocating it to Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Philippines. Interesting the author omits mention of Libya and Daesh spin-offs operating in sub-Sahara Africa.

  3. September 8, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Alastair Crooke’s historical analysis of Western involvement in MidEastern intrigues does well to shed light on the insidious motives behind disastrous consequences. Alignments with despotic regimes that glean their power from the feudal dogma of Wahhabism has left a swathe of destruction across the ancient fertile crescent that defies any concept of sanity. Monuments to civilizations that had lasted thousands of years disappeared in less than a decade; Palmyra, Hatra, Ninevah, Nimrud etc…destroyed by arrogance, ignorance and greed! And the staggering human cost from bombing to recover wasted cities like Aleppo, Mosul and Raqqa where the destroyed infrastructure offers little hope for the future of survivors. I believe the article’s conclusion is ominously correct. “Al Qaeda will sweep up the remnants” of both Isis and elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and increase terrorist activity in the West. The Western “democracies” better be prepared to cleanse their mosques of Wahhabi extremists, especially if they don’t change their policies in the MidEast.

  4. September 8, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    I believe Syria suffered a war crime, and the war planners reside in the West. They are aided and abetted by some governments in the Middle East that funded the ‘Jihadists.’
    ———————————————————————–
    July 20, 2017
    Once
    Once they had homes, some had businesses too
    Now millions are dead, victims of a hellish crew
    Wars were instigated against their countries and lands
    Now the blood runs red on the hot desert sands

    The perpetrators of all this destruction and carnage
    Reside in luxury and are the ruling savages
    Parliaments, congresses and other assemblies
    House these bloody hypocrites and treat them gently

    Instead they should be arrested and put on trial
    For crimes against humanity and murders most vile
    Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries as well
    Were destroyed and decimated by these scumbags from hell

    These well dressed villains can be seen on the world stage
    Posturing and pimping for more wars to wage
    Will people everywhere, finally say “enough”?
    And put these “leaders” in restraining metal cuffs

    Prison cells is where these “rulers” should be
    They supported all these wars across the sea
    Millions cry out for justice and vengeance
    The victims are dead, they got a life sentence

    There has to be restitution to the countries destroyed
    The war criminals should pay for the misery they deployed
    There is no excuse, based on the horrific evidence
    Now these countries only have war and pestilence

    “Most war crimes fall into one of three categories: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and traditional war crimes. Crimes against peace include the planning, commencement, and waging of aggressive war, or war in violation of international agreements. Aggressive war is broadly defined to include any hostile military act that disregards the territorial boundaries of another country, disrespects the political independence of another regime, or otherwise interferes with the sovereignty of an internationally recognized state….”

    [more info at link below]
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2017/07/once.html

    • mike k
      September 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks Stephen. If a person were to read only your poems, they would receive a fundamental education on the world today, and what we need to do o fix it.

  5. Jay
    September 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    That Paul Wolfowitz thought Saddam Hussein could have been simply removed from power in 1991 is a laughable.

    There results would have been pretty much the same as 2003–2017

  6. John P
    September 8, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Israel is already weighing in:

    “An Israeli army spokesperson declined to discuss reports of the air raid, saying the army did not comment on operational matters.”
    “However, Yaakov Amidror, a former head of the country’s National Security Council, told Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday that the air raid would be an effort to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group, which operates in Syria.”
    “”We do not interfere in the question of who will rule in Damascus; we interfere with the question of how strong Iran and Hezbollah will be in the region,” Amidror said.” – Al Jazeera

  7. HpO
    September 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Can you hear me out there, Alastair Crooke, doing my Hip-Hip-Hurrah? For this good news:

    “Sunni jihadists’ long ‘run’ as the tool of choice for re-making the Middle East is over. … The failure of Wahabbist movements to make political achievements is complete.”

    Is Gladio B over, too, though? You didn’t say.

    Or will a Gladio “C” masterminded by you-know-who emerge from “a greater convergence amongst Islamist movements”? You didn’t say either.

  8. John
    September 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Syrians survival is a blow to Israel not any real Muslim jihadist……The plan is for Israel and Saudi Arabia to co-rule the middle east…..looks like Russia and allies have thrown a monkey wrench into the grand plan……look for an upgraded Israel military involvement in Syria (illegally) in the near future……

  9. exiled off mainstreet
    September 9, 2017 at 12:00 am

    This is a great article which explains the rationales of the terrorists and exposes who were their sponsors: Israel and the associated western regimes under their influence, including the extremely large “dog” which they wag as the tail. By going to war against civilization in the middle east western civilization itself was in some sense deligitimized. Some sort of accountability is necessary to restore that legitimacy, and unless and until that occurs, the corruption continues. The Syrians heroically have survived this barbarous onslaught.

  10. wu
    September 9, 2017 at 1:54 am

    These Shrines of light are our Shrines, all of them, and belong to us, all of us, and the source of their Noor (light) is one, which transcends from Hejaz to Iraq to Sham to Yemen. ‘We’ (all humanity) :) :) don’t and can’t discriminate the Noor which descends upon us. The Nature runs its due course, physically or metaphysically, the timelines are pretty much predefined. We are just mere observers of these events, and you have re-observed all of this really well, but only from perspective of physical states of affairs. Its the universal Zeitgeist which you are observing. The People of Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Russia, Yemenis, Pathans, has fought well and earned this milestone Semi-victory despite the blatant machination concealed under the pretext of RTP. Its just the beginning of long complex wars. What if, one day, political Islam unites the Persian and Turkish empires along with their peripheries. After all, In this nascent alliance of Oriental Imperial Reunification of Past Heavy weight civilizations of the East only Ottomans are absent so far, and every passing day, that eventuality is becoming more and more a question of when not if. Haven’t you noticed, that this Outcome of War on Syria which you have covered profoundly, was more of a civilizational onslaught by west which eventually failed to prevail against the collective wisdom and zest of the people who carry such a rich and long tradition of Civilizational heritage, and they are proud of their legacy of Carrying that Noor :), indiscriminately.
    P.S.: I missed Egypt, she is going to join this alliance too.

  11. Brewer
    September 9, 2017 at 3:18 am

    All roads tracing this journey lead to Israel as other commenters have stated. I wonder however, how many realize the true extent of Israel’s reach and power.
    I did not until reading an article a year or so ago that compared the British Empire, its methods and control with that of today’s Israel.
    As one who grew up in a World largely coloured red and with the firm belief that Britain was “a light unto Nations”, a civilizing force among the savage regions, a benevolent Empire, it took a deep study of History, first of my native New Zealand to comprehend both the arrogance and evils that go with the colonial system.
    Britain, a tiny island managed to control a large slice of the World. They managed this by conquest in some cases but in others and to maintain long-term control, a system of subverting local politicians and traditional rulers was implemented.
    The parallels with the Israeli control of U.S. (one could include French, British and German) foreign policy are quite marked. The methods are only slightly more subtle but it is noticeable that these governments act against their own people’s interests and act, particularly in the Middle East, in favour of Israel’s. Such as Wolfowitz, Abrams and Perle are like the old British District Commissioners and advisers. They subvert some locals through campaign funding and outright bribery, those who remain steadfast are sidelined through entrapment, media campaigns and that evergreen technique, conflation of any objection with antisemitism.

    • jaycee
      September 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      All roads do not lead to Israel. The weaponized Wahabbist project was first focussed on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and subsequently was used in Kosovo, Chechnya, Ugyur, and now apparently Rohingya. And although the leading American theorists of chaos – the Kagans, Wolfowitz, Abrams, etc – have strong Israel ties and focus, it is important to understand who their backers are in aggregate. This is easily done by reviewing the sponsors of their think tanks and organizations.

  12. Blue
    September 9, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Islamic fundamentalism has been used Turkey to undermine Kemalist secular nationalism, as well. This has been done through Gülen, Ozal, and recently Erdo?an.

    Gülen has been controlled by US inteligence from at least the 80s, and used not only in Turkey but in Central Asia, among other places, to promote Brezinski’s Green Revolution. Erdo?an was a product of this and the MB. The combined Gülen/Erdo?an attack on Kemalism through various show trials, and fundamentalists infiltrating state mechanisms is well known now. The AKP were used to aid this.

    Indeed, it was after the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, that the US directed Gülen against Erdo?an and his MB sympathies. It might be noted that Qatar too is an MB supporter that has seemingly lost favor in the US.

    The result is that Erdo?an knows that the US and the EU are gunning for him, and he has pivoted somewhat to Asia himself. Unfortunately, his MB sectarianism still makes him vulnerable to US manipulation. This is why he cannot quite ally with secular Assad against the Kurds despite it being in his interest to do so.

    • Rob Roy
      September 10, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Why are you spelling Erdogan with a ? mark?

      • Rich B
        September 10, 2017 at 9:31 pm

        He’s not; it’s just what happens when a web page (document etc.) fails to recognise a letter, in this instance the g-with-circumflex that appears in the correct spelling of E.’s name.

        • September 13, 2017 at 1:56 pm

          Close but no cigar. It’s not the web page recognition; it’s the font chosen by the web browser from those available on the local machine that lacks support for the particular character.

  13. Herman
    September 9, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Brilliant.

  14. Michael Kenny
    September 9, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Mr Crooke proclaims the classic line that Putin is on the verge of becoming Emperor of the Universe and that Israel is cowering at his feet but then proceeds to prove the contrary. He points to the failure of the concept pursued by ISIS and, of course, by the Syrian rebels, namely the attempt to control territory but then argues, correctly, in my view, that the result will be a return to Al Qaeda-style terrorism. That’s a disaster for Putin. He’s totally bogged down in Syria, just as the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan. Having chosen to prop up Assad, he is condemned to defend him for ever more and against all comers. The day Putin pulls out of Syria, Assad goes under. Having alienated everybody else in Syria, the day Assad goes under, Putin gets kicked out of his precious, although militarily useless, naval base. He has painted himself into a corner. The US can lower the boom on him at any time and he knows not the day nor the hour! An Al Qaeda-style terrorist movement, which can operate all over Syria, would be a disaster for Putin. The terrorists could go right up to the Mediterranean coast and attack the Russian bases or Russian military personnel off the bases. At that point, Russia starts taking serious casualties and the “home front” starts getting upset. There’s no visible “enemy” or enemy territory to attack. Little by little, that will provoke a brutal reaction, as the soldiers lash out in blind rage at an enemy they cannot identify and thereby alienate the civilian population. The Russian military’s tradition of extreme brutality, going all the way back to the tsars’ time, will exacerbate that. If Al Qaeda objects to the Jewish infidels and the American infidels, then logically, it must object to the Russian infidels as well.

    • Skip Scott
      September 9, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Hey Mike-

      Wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one fills up. Go cash your check troll. See, I’m still keeping my eye on your late arrivals.

    • Rob Roy
      September 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      M. Kenny, you may be sincere in your commentary, but it nevertheless lacks any kind of foundation whatsoever. For one thing, Israelis, Americans, and the terrorists they create and support are illegally in Syria. Russia, on the other hand, is legitimate as is the Syrian government. BTW, Mr. Cooke does not claim Putin is or will be “emperor of the universe.” That is Trump’s goal. Putin and Assad together have more intelligence that our entire Congress. There’s not a single senator who will stand against Israel. It’s Israel that wants to be controller of the universe.

    • frances
      September 12, 2017 at 11:04 am

      IMO the only problem with this view is that if it were at all a likely event, it would have already happened…

  15. Patrick Lucius
    September 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I’m not too sure the Syrian debacle is over. Wouldn’t surprise me if we had something else up our sleeve… Like an anonymous drone strike on Assad. Does anyone really think that the deep state is done? They still have lots of power…

  16. September 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Mr. Crooke wrote, “In fact, America had no interest in stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism. The U.S. was using it liberally: It had already sent in armed, fired-up Islamist insurgents into Afghanistan in 1979 precisely in order to “induce” a Soviet invasion (one which subsequently duly occurred).”

    The points made in this article are very astute and helpful in understanding what has been going on in the Middle East. But Mr. Crooke is wrong that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The socialist government of Afghanistan pleaded and pleaded with Moscow to provide military support in the fight against the rebels. Eventually the USSR agreed.

    That is not an invasion.

    • Rob Roy
      September 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Ms. Keefe, thank you. As in Syria, Russia did not invade Syria, but is there by invitation. The rest of the foreign fighting elements are invaders. And, in passing, Russia did not invade Ukraine after the US pulled off the coup; it was already there. Again, the US were the invaders and established a Nazi-Fascist regime.

  17. Winston
    September 10, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Mecca and Medina are for Shia and Sunni alike.

  18. William Rood
    September 10, 2017 at 10:29 am

    The puritan, intolerant strain in Islam has been present since the earliest times (Hanbali, Ibn Taymiyya and, in the Eighteenth Century, Abd-el Wahhab), and this orientation always seems to arise at times of crisis within the Islamic world. ISIS may be defeated, but this orientation is never fully defeated, nor disappears completely.

    As with all propaganda and biased reporting, this statement is a partial truth, a third of the truth to be more precise.

    Recent archeological discoveries indicate that the stories of the Old Testament actually originated in southern Arabia and Yemen. According to this theory, Nebuchadnezzar drove the warlike Israelites from their native lands in Southern Arabia in order to protect the incense caravan routes through Hejaz to Ebypt and Nejd to Babylonia. Later, the Israelites were allowed to leave Babylon and go to the Levant, where the Hebrew scribes transposed the stories onto their new homeland in the Levant, which at the time was on the periphery of the Egyptian Empire.

    All three Abrahamic religions have roots in the tribal culture of Southern Arabia and Yemen. The tribes of the Old Testament were herders and nomads involved in constant raiding, war, vendetta and violence, fearful and intolerant of other tribes and their gods. Genocidal acts were not unheard of and admitted in the Old Testament. Later prophets such as the mythical Moses, slightly more historical Jesus and well-documented Muhammad, preached a more inclusive philosophy, but the old culture of fear and intolerance has constantly re-appeared in works such as Revelations, “problematic” passages in the Talmud and, as Crooke points out, Ibn Taymiyya and Abd-el Wahhab.

    There’s no reason for Crooke to single out Islam, which is only a third of this story. The intolerance and barbarity of tribal culture has reappeared in all three of the Abrahamic religions in the form of the Inquisition, the burning of pagans (witches) and other heretics in Christian Europe and the current extreme hatred of Arabs among Zionists and their close cousins with nomadic roots, Kurdish nationalist militias.

  19. George Hoffman
    September 10, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I gave up on the fantasy of American hegemony after I did a tour in Vietnam. Our defeat in Vietnam, besides being at the time a major foreign policy debacle, ushered an era of our retreat as being policeman to the world. These various unnecessary wars since the 9/11 attacks, grouped under the so-called Global War on Terror, just reinforce defeat in the Vietnam War was a watershed event in world history. Mark Twain said that history may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.

    • September 13, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Right-o from another Viet Nam War vet, George. It’s amazing to me that after an unbroken string of defeats in major wars since World War II, U.S. leadership still imagines that our military might is so murderous that we’ll win the next one, no matter how ill-conceived. Our leadership is just plain stupid when it comes to choosing which wars to fight.

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